Top build quality; excellent snapper; latest version of Windows Phone 7
Disappointing apps offering; no card slot for upgrading memory
For anyone looking for an alternative to Android or iOS, the HTC Radar is a worthy choice. The screen is clear and sharp, the build quality excellent and the operating system a joy to use. But the choice of apps lets it down.
It’s only been a couple of weeks since we were playing with the Titan, and yet here’s another phone from HTC. This time it’s the HTC Radar, which runs on the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system – 7.5 aka Mango. This smartie sits in the mid-range of those on offer at the market, and boasts great build quality as well as a user-friendly interface.
On the front of the device, you’ll see most of the real estate is taken up by the 3.8inch touch display, which is protected by Gorilla Glass. Beneath the screen sit three touch-sensitive Windows buttons for search, home and back. There are only three hard keys on the device – the power button, the camera button and the volume rocker. The 3.5mm audio jack sits at the top next to the power button, while the USB connector resides on the device’s left side.
It’s a reasonable looking device, but won’t win any beauty awards. However, its chassis is made from a single sheet of aluminium, so is reminiscent of higher-end phones. Turn the handset over and you’ll see two rubber areas – one surrounds the snapper lens and speaker, the other is home to the SIM card. The rubber has a dual purpose as it serves to offer some grip on what is otherwise a rather smooth, slippery body. There is no removable battery, so you wont find a removable back cover.
Underneath the hood, there’s a 1Gz chip rumbling away, along with 512MB of RAM. It affords the phone a smooth performance – media playback is effortless and smooth, while scrolling is also a glitch-free process. There’s a lot of onboard memory – 8GB – but remember there is no away of expanding this as there is no card slot. If you want to add media to you handset, it’s a speedy, easy process using Zone software. It is even possible to set up wireless sync, which will ensure your library is kept up to date by synching as you charge.
The screen is a fabulous S-LCD type, which has a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels (that 246ppi) – okay it’s not up there with the Apple Retina display, but it beats the quality of the Titan’s screen. Image quality is excellent and offers good contrast too. If you didn’t know, all Windows handsets have WVGA screens – this means that the display is stretched over the screen, whatever its size.
It’s easy enough to set up the handset out of the box – if you already have a Windows Live ID, it’s even easier.
You can also enter Facebook and Google accounts, although we found it can get a bit confusing if you’re accustomed to having a separate list of contacts; plus we had a bit of an issue with our Google contacts that had more than one phone number – there was some problem with unrecognised fields, but we overcame this with a bit of editing.
If you’re used to using an Apple or Android phone, you’ll be used to icons – but Windows Phone uses something called’ Live Tiles’ instead. There are two home screens and using these you customise your tiles to group items together, so that the actions you use most are easy to access. The other thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the amount of integration that Windows Phone offers – social networking and contacts are highly integrated and it can catch you pleasantly by surprise at times.
The camera on the HTC Radar is another very pleasant surprise. It may only be five-megapixels, but it has loads of feature and offers a decent LED flash that doesn’t overexpose your subjects. Our favourite features are Burst Shots and Panorama Shot. The phone even offers a spirit level to ensure you get your panoramic pictures lined up correctly. Press the shutter key, line up the dots and take your images. The Burst Shots is handy for taking images of high-speed subjects as it takes five snaps one after the other.
Other features include facial recognition, autofocus and the ability to manually focus on any area by tapping the display. There is more evidence of the system’s integration here too – it is possible to bring pictures straight into HTC’s Photo Enhancer so that you can add effects to your shot before you share it with contacts or networks with one touch. It’s just so simple.
The handset also has a front-facing VGA snapper and a camera app. In theory, this lets you switch between the two lenses but until Skype is available to WP7 it’s not really applicable. The camera can also shoot 720p video at 30fps.
WP7 doesn’t actually use ‘contacts’ – instead they are called ‘People’ and you’ll find your people (or contacts!) contained in the People Hub, which is on the start screen. There are quite a few hubs used by Mango – groups include music and video, games, Marketplace, office and social networking. The tiles update constantly, so for instance you’ll see the People tile keeps changing with a mosaic of the profile images of your contacts. Try clicking on it and you’ll see a scrolling screen that moves in several directions, and which offers a number of options. The first column, for instance, lets you scroll through all your contacts.
Click on one of these and you’ll see just how deep the integration is on WP7. Not only will you see the contact’s details but you’ll also be able to view their photo albums and social networking activity. You can also decide to email, call, tweet, go to their website or post on their Facebook wall. Not only that but you’ll see a log of your conversations on all the different platforms, or you can click on their address and Bing will take you there. This is all done using the operating system, rather than third-party apps.
Head back to the People Hub and you can take yourself to the What’s New screen by swiping sideways. This shows you a social network feed that updates automatically, so you don’t need any dedicated apps – you can choose which feeds you get access to (such as Live Messenger, Twitter or Facebook for instance) – and if you want to add a comment or like a post, for instance, simply tap the touch display to do so.
The start screen is also where you’ll find the tiles for Messaging, Emails, Calls and Calendar, along with Internet Explorer and the snapper. You can choose to assign separate tiles for your email addresses or bring then altogether in the inbox. The calendar can also be customised to show events from various sources (each source is colour coded to help you keep track). Likewise, messages can all be integrated for Facebook, Windows Live and SMS. It does seem a bit odd to start with, but once you’ve got to grips with it, it’s really handy, as you don’t miss anything.
The virtual keyboard is a good size and works well in ether landscape or portrait mode. It’s just a shame that to get to the punctuation and numbers keys you have to go to the ‘symbol’ keyboard layout, rather than the QWERTY one. Unless you’re a texter of teenage-like speed, you’ll find this a bit of a drag.
So far so good. But now we turn our attention to the WP7 Marketplace, where it all starts to go downhill. Consider this – Android users have around 400,000 apps to choose from, Apple owners more than half a million. How many do you get for WP7 – a measly 40,000. Okay, as we’ve already mentioned, many of the features that you would need apps for, such as social networking, are already integrated into the operating system, and there’s a Local Scout tile that gives you a directory of local restaurants, shops and businesses, but even so it’s a letdown.
It’s nice to see a mid-range phone that isn’t an Android device. The HTC Radar has a quality build and an excellent, smooth running OS. The 1GHz chip offers seamless performance, and there’s plenty of connectivity on offer. It’s an alternative to the iOS and Android options that’s really worth considering – if you can deal with the lack of apps.
SIZE 120.5 x 61.5 x 11mm
DISPLAY 3.8 inches
CAMERA 5 megapixels
VIDEO RECORDING YES
VIDEO STREAMING YES
INTERNET GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi, HSDPA, HSUPA
MEMORY 8GB, no card slot
MUSIC PLAYER MP3, AAC+, WAV, WMA
VIDEO CALLING No
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support, Bing Maps
3.5MM AUDI JACK Yes
TALKTIME 7 hours
STANDBY 14 days
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